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Are Native American Women at a Higher Risk of Getting Sexually Assaulted in the US?

Feb 27,2022

Experiencing sexual violence is that dark memory that no survivor can ever obliterate from his or her mind. According to RAINN statistics, every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. It is true that sexual violence affects millions of people in America. However, the violence against indigenous women is much higher in the US.

The National Institute of Justice Research Report of May 2016 suggests that more than 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. Out of the total figures, 56.1% have gone through sexual violence while 55.5% have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner.

The stats point towards the deep-rooted threat that the indigenous population has to face on an everyday basis. We live in a constantly advancing and evolving world. However, understanding the gravity of the situation and taking preventive measures to combat the situation is not something that has been addressed for a long time. 

The same report also highlighted that Among American Indian and Alaska Native victims, 96 percent of women and 89 percent of men have experienced sexual violence by an interracial perpetrator. The question next to be raised is why the tribal population of America is not safe in their own boundaries?

One of the major reasons, why the Native-American population is at a higher risk of getting sexually assaulted, is discrimination against them.

The history of discrimination against the Native Americans dates back to the times when Europeans arrived in America. Not solely in getting justice for sexual violence, but tribal people in America, even today, have to experience discrimination in various other aspects also. Research suggests that 23% of the Native American population reported discrimination in availing healthcare facilities. On the other hand, a notable share of 38% of Native Americans reported violence and 34% complained of being threatened or harassed. This prevailing discrimination is the reason why most Native American victims are not granted justice for the crime they have experienced by Non-Indians in the nation.

The Native American Women, on the other hand, share relationships with Non-Native men which also exposes them to the danger of experiencing Intimate Partner Violence. As per a survey on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), more than half of them, or 58.7% of them (to be precise) reported lifetime physical and/or sexual violence from their partners which clearly demonstrates that women are not safe even with their loved ones or their life partners.

There can be other determining factors against increased rates of sexual violence against Native women of America. Research suggests that the cases of Intimate Partner Violence increase when the household income decreases. Possibly due to the increased stress and anger at the difficulty of managing the household expenses. In addition to that, homeless women are the ones at the highest risk of facing sexual violence.

Measures to Protect Native-American Women

The increasing safety threat for the Native population sheds light on the prevailing condition of the population in the US. It does not only point towards the sexual violence in the boundaries but to other related spheres also like racial discrimination and inequality in the country. Here are some of the measures that the US requires in order to protect the Native people:

  • Despite the advancements, there are still gaps between the national law that leaves tribal people behind, which results in awaited justice or in some cases, no justice at all. To avoid the same, the prime objective should be to bridge the gap between legislation and the Native Americans by making relevant changes in the law and adhering to them.

  • Most often, the tribal population is not aware of the laws. Consequently, most of the sexual violence victims do not report the crimes. Hence, there is an additional need for educating the Native population on the existing federal laws that can help them take required actions.

  • The United States must work upon against the discriminatory practices and behavior that restricts Native women and men from acquiring equal treatment and avail justice in the eyes of law. From 2005 to 2009, U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute 67% of the Indian country matters referred to them involving sexual abuse and related matters.

  • Furthermore, the US must also take into consideration the underfunding of the healthcare programs for the tribal population. Lack of funding and racial discrimination people from seeking and acquiring the needed healthcare facilities at the time of facing sexual violence.

One of the major reasons for the high rates of violence against Native women is the failure of prosecuting the offenders. Justice depends on numerous factors like the region of the assault, the race of the perpetrator and the victim, crime type, etc. In such conditions, justice is cumbersome. Despite changes in recent years, there is still a long way to go before Natives start feeling safe in the US.